Malta, an island in the central Mediterranean Sea, was fortified as a base for the Knights Hospitaller 1530–1798 and to provide major harbours for the British Royal Navy after 1813. Men with British military associations (all subsequently to attain some distinction in public and/or academic life) were amongst the many pioneers of Maltese geology who established the essence of its outcrop stratigraphy and structure: a circa 300-metre-thick sequence of near-horizontal mid-Cenozoic fossiliferous limestones punctuated by a ‘blue clay/marl’, cut by a series of major faults and penetrated by several caves and fissures whose infill contained significant remains of Pleistocene vertebrates. Between 1843 and 1856, Lieutenant (later Vice-Admiral) Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt (1811–1888) defined major units in the bedrock sequence, Colonel (later Major-General) Sir William Reid (1791–1858) promoted publication of a geological memoir, and a 1:31,680-scale geological map prepared by the 3rd Earl of Ducie on a Royal Engineers topographical base map was published under Royal Engineer auspices. Mostly between 1860 and 1866, Captain (later Professor) Frederick Wollaston Hutton (1836–1905) and Surgeon (later Deputy Surgeon-General and Professor) Andrew Leith Adams (1827–1882) made field observations that refined earlier interpretations of stratigraphy and structure and generated revised but small-scale maps. They also collected specimens that facilitated specialist identifications of Malta’s fossil faunas, including foraminifera by Thomas Rupert Jones (1819–1911), Professor of Geology at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Rock specimens were sent in 1888 by Surgeon-Captain David (later Surgeon-General Sir David) Bruce (1855–1931) and the former engineer Lieutenant (and later Professor) Osbert Chadwick (1844–1913) to the pioneer oceanographer John (later Sir John) Murray (1841–1914). They stimulated Murray’s benchmark study 1889–1890 of Malta’s sedimentary sequence and fossil foraminifera, and their palaeoenvironmental interpretation, plus his compilation of a 1:129,254-scale geological map. These prompted extensive local studies and collection of macrofossil specimens by schoolmaster (later Lieutenant-Colonel) John Henry Cooke (1862–1933). By the end of the century, representative Maltese fossils had been presented for specialist study and identification or description to major museums in England, Scotland and Italy, facilitating improved correlation of Maltese strata with Oligo-Miocene successions elsewhere.
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Research Article| October 29 2021
BRITISH MILITARY CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE GEOLOGY OF MALTA, PART 1: NINETEENTH CENTURY FOUNDATIONS
Earth Sciences History (2021) 40 (2): 503–537.
EDWARD P. F. ROSE; BRITISH MILITARY CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE GEOLOGY OF MALTA, PART 1: NINETEENTH CENTURY FOUNDATIONS. Earth Sciences History 1 July 2021; 40 (2): 503–537. doi: https://doi.org/10.17704/1944-6187-40.2.503
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